UNL doctoral student feels at home in North Platte, grows her interest in ag

Jiaming Duan next to a cornfield where she is studying biological systems engineering at the West Central Research, Extension & Education Center in North Platte. (Courtesy of Job Vigil, the North Platte Telegraph)
Thursday, October 7, 2021

UNL doctoral student feels at home in North Platte, grows her interest in ag

Nebraska reminds Jiaming Duan where she was born and raised in China.

Duan came to study for her Ph.D. at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and spends part of her time at the West Central Research, Extension, and Education Center in North Platte.

“Agriculture is the main industry in the province where I grew up,” Duan said. “So that is one reason why I want to learn agriculture.”

In her youth, Duan said she heard a lot of stories about agriculture.

“I learned about what kind of crops we grow and how people try to manage their crops,” Duan said. “It was like a seed put in my heart when I was little, so I had an interest to study agriculture (in the U.S.).”

Her research topic is centered on nitrate leaching in northeast Nebraska, but part of the project is located in North Platte.

“I think one of the biggest reasons we are interested in this problem in the northeastern part of Nebraska is because the groundwater is already contaminated by nitrogen there because their soil is so sandy,” Duan said, “so the nitrate is easy to leach into the groundwater.”

She said the contaminated water has a negative influence on health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, too much nitrate makes it difficult for red blood cells to carry oxygen in the body, causing acute methemoglobinemia. High levels of nitrate can also be dangerous to pregnant women and infants.

Duan earned a bachelor’s degree in China and her master’s degree at Texas A&M.

“After my master’s studies, I tried to look for different options,” Duan said. “One option was to stay in Texas and another option was to look for different kind of schools.”

UNL has a collaboration with the university she attended in China.

“So I heard of (UNL) a long time ago,” Duan said. “When I did my research for my master’s studies I read a lot of articles that were produced here. I feel like many (UNL) professors’ research is perfectly coherent to what I want to do. So I decided to apply here and luckily I find opportunity.”

Duan has been in Nebraska for about one year.

“Typically I just stay in Lincoln but come here only to work in the fields and to do some lab-based experiments,” Duan said. “I think I like here pretty much. One of the reasons is because it is very familiar.”

(Read the full article from the North Platte Telegraph here).